Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Millennials and Confessions

In an article that appeared in 1:1 Answers Update, Ken Ham calls our attention to some very disturbing trends among twenty-something-year-olds, or as they are called, Millennials. Over 40% say they are not born again. 35% declare the Bible has errors or they don’t know if it has errors. 45% say that Sunday School did not teach them how to defend their faith. 45% say homosexual behavior is not a sin, or they don’t know if it is a sin. 40% believe “gay couples” should be allowed to marry and have legal rights. 20% say there are books (other than the Bible) that are inspired by God. 65% believe that if you are a good person, you will go to heaven. What is shocking about this demographic group is that they are regular church attenders (at least 3x month). Ham points out that these Millennials are going to fundamentally change the church and the culture if these beliefs hold.

Now we know why so many people are leaving the Church. They were never really part of her to begin with. I suspect it has always been this way whether people are visibly leaving the Church or choosing to remain in the community for other reasons. I am not alarmed by the trends. Actually, in a way, I celebrate what I see as a necessary purging. What alarms me is not the people that leave the church. What alarms me more than anything else are those who remain in the community. If you believe that all it takes to go to heaven is being good, then either your belief must change or I really, really, really want you to leave my church. There are far too many unregenerate, secular thinking members present in the church. Those of us who know Christ ought to have the love and decency as Christians to discipline them out of the body or bring them to repentance in Christ.

The second question Ham wonders about is why there are so many people still in the body of Christ who are so entrenched in secular thinking. We downgrade sin, soften divine justice, cheapen grace, and open the floodgates to worldly thinking from our homes to our business right down to our Sunday school classes. People cannot find basic doctrine with both hands and we are busy convincing them they can discern the hidden will of God if they pray long enough, hard enough, and just in the right way. Why do we think War Room was so incredibly popular? It feeds off poor thinking about issues like prayer and the Christians daily struggle with sin. Millennials have adopted autonomous human reason as their sole authority for how they live and think. They place Scripture in the dock and God along with it and issue their judgments. Genesis 1-3 cannot be accurate because science says so. Women can lead because modern minds understand better than the authors of Scripture God’s true design for the sexes. Homosexual prohibitions in Scripture are the product of cultural bias against the practice. Modern minds are more informed, more enlightened, and yes, more loving. Once Scripture goes, anything goes.

Finally, why is the Church not reaching the culture with biblical truths the way the Church once did? While I am not convinced the slippage here is as great as some think it is, it would be silly to deny any slippage at all. The gospel includes repentance from dead works and rebellion. The modern message rarely includes this. The law and the justice of God have been stripped out of the gospel. The gospel used to be good news for the undeserving and the helpless. Now, the gospel is good news for those who want a better life, a happy marriage, a healthy family, and a solid career. In modern western culture, it seems the Christian life is little more than a shallow embrace of what appears to be Christian morality coupled with some religious activities on the weekend and perhaps some social causes sprinkled in here and there. That is to say that western Christianity is not unlike its religious counterparts. The decision to become a “Christian” is either the result of a rationalistic exercise based on an examination of logical arguments and scientific evidence or it is simply the holding to family tradition in many, many cases. The Millennials appear to believe that being a Christian means being a good person, exercising your own opinions about the most basic of Christian doctrine, and not hurting anyone. Essentially, the final authority in the Millennial Christians’ mind is the Millennial himself. Traditional worship has been set by a huge majority of Millennials, not for exegetical reasons, but simply because it’s old, outdated, or because it belongs to someone else.

Millennials want their own cake and eat it to. This is why they insist on a new version of Christianity, a Christianity not inherited by 2,000 years of Church history, but one that they can put their fingerprints on. This is why Millennials reject Genesis in the name of science and the enlightened mind. It is why they challenge the Church’s teachings on Scripture. It is also the reason that Millennials are more likely to question or accept homosexuality as an acceptable sexual expression even in the Church. They want their Christianity, their music, their sermons, their theology, their way! Nothing less will do.

The Millennial phenomenon points us in the direction of the ancient biblical practice of confessional Christianity. Modern Millennials tend to look down on old music, old worship, old creeds and confessions. But they have very shallow reasons for doing so. Most of them simply have not bothered to educate themselves to form an opinion either way. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, the thought of engaging in such a dry, emotionless project is painful to say the least. If you can’t give it to the Millennial in a short Facebook post or a Tweet, then forget it.

Paul wrote to Timothy that he had made “the good confession” in the presence of many witnesses. What is “the good confession?” The Greek word homolegeo, contrary to what modern culture thinks, does not simply mean to say something out loud. Far too many people understand that confessing Christ is merely saying they want to follow Christ. “I am a Christian” has truly become a claim that carries very little meaning. For the Koine audience of Paul’s day, the word carried a sense of agreement. It meant to agree with someone. It meant to agree to do something. “The legal connotation is common and poss. dominant. A person agrees with another’s statement, concedes or confesses something (such as guilt before a judge), agrees to something (e.g., someone else’s wish). This agreement expresses itself in an act of commitment, promise, or confession in a court or legal contract. The noun ὁμολογία plays a role in philosophical discourse: it does not merely indicate “theoretical agreement” but “implies consent to some thing felt to be valid, and in such a way that it is followed by definite resolve and action, by ready attachment to a cause. The religious use of the words may have derived primarily from the language of treaties and law courts. A legal agreement that involved binding oneself by an oath implied an obligation to the deity. A solemn admission of wrongdoing before a court of law could naturally have been transferred to the confession of sin in a religious setting. These concepts were found esp. in the oriental cults, as may be seen from Lydian and Phrygian expiatory inscriptions.” (NIDNTTE)

The Christian Confession is far more rich and more meaningful in ancient Christianity that it is today. Today, lip-service is given by many false Christians as they sit in Church week after week, hearing the sermon but rejecting the authority from which it comes. They meet with the pastor, who is all too eager to bring them into the fold because it makes him feel and look good, go through the motions of signing a card and agreeing to a covenant, all the while having no clue what it means to follow Christ.

Ken Ham’s article should serve as a bit of a wake-up call to us. What are we to do with these young Millennials who want to claim our Christianity all the while rejecting our Christ. They claim to love God but reject God’s commandments in many areas. They claim the Bible but only those parts that do not contain errors. They say that music should not be an issue but insist on changing it. The irony is embarrassing. What are we to do with these individuals. First, keep an eye out for them. They are not our friends. They are not friends of Christ. Those who call Scripture into question have to be confronted, rebuked, and if they prove obstinate, they must be removed from the congregation. A little leaven leavens the entire lump. They who question such basics as the Christian sexual ethic must be dealt with harshly. This is not a game. Intolerance is the order of the day for those young biblically inept Millennials who are so arrogant that they think they don’t have to study Scripture to formulate their opinions. They can come with their pre-made opinions and then make Scripture support them one way or another. There is no room in the body for people who have not truly made “the good confession.” What do we say about these Millennials who dare question Scripture at such basic areas like sexuality, creation, and the authority of Scripture itself? We remind one another of Jude’s ominous words:

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

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